Is Working Freelance Really Worth It? Pros and Cons

Are you tired of working for clients you don’t like? Want control of your time, location, and projects you work on? And make more money while you’re at it? Then you should consider freelancing.

Freelancing is basically being self-employed and not committed to any one company or firm. You’ve heard those seemingly perfect freelance stories. Some designer quits his jobs and starts freelancing – and now he’s making more money than he was while at a firm. All the while traveling the world and working for himself. Not to mention he gets to choose what kind of work he does.

laptop-cafe

However, there is no such thing as perfect – and freelancing is no exception. While the above paragraph might make being a freelancer out to be an ideal gig, it has its drawbacks. And some of these can be deal breakers for you.

So should you freelance? Let’s weight the pros and cons:

pros-of-freelancing

1. Choose When You Work

When you don’t have to come into an office each day, you can really be in control of your time. You get to choose when you work. You’re working for yourself, after all. Are you a morning person that wants to stop working at lunchtime? That’s cool. Or are you a night owl that loves to sleep in? Go for it. As long as you get the work done, that’s all that matters. When you freelance, you get to choose when you work. Or at least be more flexible with your schedule (with the few exceptions that involve time-sensitive clients).

2. Choose Where You Work

Since you’re not reporting to a stationary office every day, you can choose where you do your freelancing work. Whether it’s at home, at various cafes throughout the cities, or traveling—or even moving—to different cities, it doesn’t matter. Like with being in control of your time, as long as you get the work done then it doesn’t matter where you’re located. When you freelance, you get to choose where you work. Or again, at least be more flexible with your location (if you have location-sensitive clients).

3. Choose What You Work On

The biggest drawback of working for a company or firm is you usually don’t get to choose what projects you work on. You design based on what clients are brought to you. But when you are a freelancer, you find your own clients. Thus, you get to choose what you work on. Notice the pattern? Freelancing is about choice – freedom.

4. Potentially Make More Money

If you have the drive in you, you can stand to make more money freelancing. You’re not throttled by working for someone else. You can take on more clients or more projects than if you were working for a company or firm. And more quality work equals making more money.

5. Fire Bad Clients

Similar to #3, if you get stuck with a bad client while working for someone else, you either suck it up or quit your job. And there goes all of your work and income. But with freelancing, each client is a separate source of income. So if you come across a bad client, you can freely fire them. Why waste your precious days working on something that’s annoying you? Drop that client like a bad habit.

cons-of-freelancing

1. Incoming Work Isn’t Guaranteed

At a company or firm, assuming it doesn’t go out of business, you’re pretty much guaranteed work. You come in, there is always work for you to do, and you’ll never be at a shortage. As a freelancer, since you’re finding your own work, it’s never guaranteed. Sometimes opportunities can be plentiful, and other times there could be less.

2. Inconsistent Monthly Income

With inconsistent incoming work comes inconsistent monthly income. Some months you can be rolling in a steady stream of quality work. Other months your clients might not need you, or you don’t find enough work. And your income suffers as a result.

3. Potentially Make Less Money

A continuation of #2. If you aren’t finding quality clients, you could potentially make less money than if you were at a company or firm. Ditto if you’re lazy. If you aren’t a self-motivating type and need someone else to kick you in the butt, then with freelancing you could potentially be making less money than at a company or firm.

4. You Have to Find New Work On Your Own

With freelancing, you don’t just spend time creating, you also need to spend time finding new clients and work. At a company or firm, the incoming work is taken care of for you. You just need to design and that’s it. (However, if you absolutely hate finding clients but still want to freelance, one remedy is partnering with someone that can find work for you – a designer manager of sorts.)

5. You Have to Do Your Own Accounting

Similar to #4. At a company or firm, you don’t need to worry about accounting. You design, you get paid, you pay yearly taxes, and that’s it. Not so with freelancing – since you are your own company, you need to handle your own accounting. (Again, if you hate accounting then you can use software to make it easier or hire/outsource to someone that can do it.)

should-you-freelance

So is freelancing ultimately worth it? Yes. Yes it is. You won’t get a wishy-washy “it depends” answer here. If you’re considering it, then you should freelance.

Of course, you have to be driven, confident, and independent. You should be willing to take matters into your own hands. (So it really does depend, huh?)

But the benefits of being in control of your time, location, and work you do is worth it alone. That’s true freedom right there – something we all desire as human beings. Add to that the potential to make more money—totally up to your drive, of course—and the pros of freelancing outweigh the cons. Just make sure you aren’t lazy and find actual work for yourself.

So if you are already freelancing, even if just on the side, then let this be confirmation that you made the right choice. And if you haven’t been a freelancer yet, give it a try – you’ll be hooked by the freedom and control you gain.

To recap, here are the pros and cons of freelancing:

Pros:

  • 1. Choose when you work
  • 2. Choose where you work
  • 3. Choose what you work on
  • 4. Potentially make more money
  • 5. Fire bad clients

Cons:

  • 1. Incoming work isn’t guaranteed
  • 2. Inconsistent monthly income
  • 3. Potentially make less money
  • 4. You have to find new work on your own
  • 5. You have to do your own accounting

3 Ways Your Web Design Can Better Connect You to Your Audience

cinemagraph

How do people recognize good web design?

There is a big difference between good and bad design. Many people can identify a good design, but they don’t know what makes the difference.

Most people are not looking at a website and thinking: That website has well-matched serif and sans-serif fonts and a nice usage of white space!

Nope. Only designers think that.

In most cases people just feel like there is something good about it. Maybe it’s that eye-catching font or maybe that vibrant color, but they never actually know for sure.

There is something more to good design than making it just look right.

Because you can design your website according to all the major design rules with surgical precision … and people may still not like it.

Form, function, and feel

Good design is not just how a website looks; it’s how it works.

Yet a website is also not a machine. There is no simple code base or recipe for a good design. You can’t program it, generate it, or somehow automate the process.

That’s why your design needs something more.

In order to create a web design that connects, we need it to reach new levels of interaction with our audience.

1. Design for humans

Your website’s design creates a first impression with your users, and you want to make their interaction with your site as human-friendly as possible. Nobody wants to be greeted and instructed by a robot.

Making your website human-centered means making it easy to use and not making people guess what they are supposed to do next. It means that you focus your design around people’s actions and how your visitors expect your website to work for them.

You can improve user experience on your site by easily solving common problems that would otherwise take your visitors’ time to figure out.

The most common problems that visitors find on poorly designed websites:

  • “Is it clickable?”
    All elements that need interaction with a user should be clearly visible or stand out in some way. Links and buttons should at least be marked in a different color than the rest of the body content.
  • “Where am I?”
    Visitors will feel lost on your website when your design layout is not consistent. When people don’t know where to go, they’ll always find the exit.You can’t move the navigation or change the layout too often between pages. You should use common patterns throughout the entire website so your visitors can learn your website’s interface.

    Consistency is one of the most important aspects of a well-designed website.

  • “I can’t read it!”
    Is your content easy to read? If not, your text may be too small or the color contrast between the background and text color may not be clear enough.Remember that you design your website typography for the human eye.

    If your targeted audience is a little older, you need to make your typography even bigger and add more contrast. You should focus on your users’ needs; don’t worry if it doesn’t look aesthetic to you anymore.

Typography

Take some time to get to know your typical visitors and study their behavior on your website. Find their common questions and problems, and try to solve them.

Make sure your website is usable by visitors that matter to you. Forget about making your design flat or using fancy colors if it’s not working for your people.

2. Design for emotions

Emotions have a big influence on most of our decisions. Therefore, we can’t ignore emotions when designing websites.

It all matters when it comes to people’s feelings. By using specific fonts, shapes, icons, photos, or colors we can affect the way people feel about our products, services, or brand.

You can see big brands playing with our emotions all the time. Just look at companies like Apple, Target, or Starbucks.

Product design is definitely one of the main factors in Apple’s success. Apple spends a lot of time and money making sure their products look sleek, sexy, and modern.

img-apple-products

It’s also not just the way the product looks, but how it works and feels when you use it. Most Apple products have smooth, nice-to-touch surfaces and consistent rounded corners. It feels good, right?

So, how can you use emotional design?

  • Give your brand a soul.
    Choose one emotion you want people to feel about your brand or website, then focus on it and be consistent.Do you want your website to be on the light-hearted, humorous side? Then use joyful colors, smooth shapes, funny characters, and combine it with light jokes all over the place.

    But let’s say you’re running a blog about sports cars. You want people to associate with your brand, so you need to make them feel cool about it. You may want to make your design sleek, modern, sexy, and use a strong color like red.

    You wouldn’t want to use bright pastel colors or Comic Sans font because that would mismatch your design with the taste of sports car fans.

    Mailchimp

  • Surprise your visitors.
    Do you want to get some attention? People remember things better and pay more attention when their feelings are associated with it. Surprise your visitors by making something unexpected but positive.For example, show a “Thank you” message on a simple action, make interesting parallax scrolling effects, or employ animations when the cursor hovers over some elements.

    dangelicoguitars.com

  • Give your kids candy when they cry.
    How do people feel when they go to a website and it’s not working or they get a 404 page? They may feel confused, disappointed, or frustrated.You definitely don’t want people to feel that way. You can fix it by making a funny 404 page or setting up your own custom page when your website is inactive due to some maintenance work.

    Make people smile when there is a problem, and keep them busy when they have to wait.

    404 page

  • Keep it positive.
    This is a general rule of thumb: evoke only positive feelings. You never want to associate any bad feelings with your brand (unless that’s really your goal and you know what you’re doing).Try to use positive icons like check marks, smiley faces, and thumbs-up signs. You may also want to associate positive feelings with desired actions on your website. For example:

    • Show a smiley face (reward) after completing a task
    • Use a green “add to cart” button
    • Show check marks for correctly filled out form fields
    • Use a progress bar in multi-page forms

    Photojojo’s shopping cart

3. Design to tell a story

The age of making home pages look like airplane dashboards is over. We avoid overusing buttons, calls to action, and all the other distractions these days.

The new role of website design is to tell a story.

Imagine a comic book page. You can see various size strips and illustrations to make the story more interesting. It’s designed to get your attention, keep you interested, surprise you, scare you, make you laugh … and this is accomplished with only good narrative and images.

Your website can tell a story too:

  • Design a layout that enhances exploring.
    Try to keep your page content in a proper narrative and progressive order. Use a simple vertical design for easy visual eye movement and flow.You may want to start with a good eye-catching headline and a simple description above the fold. Then, tell the visitor about your best features, show your clients’ stories, list people who are using your services or products, and finally lead to one — and only one — call to action (and optimize it).

    Divide your content into parts, but make sure there is a clear connection between them. This way your visitors can read it like a real story, with no pause or break.

    Also remember to have a good visual balance, both horizontally and vertically. Let your readers’ eyes smoothly move from left to right. If one section is left-hand heavy, make the the other one right-hand focused, and vice versa.

    Genesis features

  • Use various content elements to keep visitors interested.
    Make sure your story is interesting. You can use different interactive elements like tabs, sliders, and scrolling animations to keep your users engaged in exploring your website.Avoid using long and boring paragraphs of text. You can chop them into smaller portions supported with videos, graphics, and illustrations. Or you can introduce some organization and make a bulleted list, which is always easier for the eye to read.

    Don’t be afraid to change background colors between the page sections. This allows you to manipulate the balance and can encourage scrolling if the background colors are in a certain order.

  • Encourage action.Every story has an ending. Put your main call to action at the end of your story, so people can take the next step.

    Make sure the vertical flow of the page leads visitors right to the final call to action. You may want to make it more prominent than any other elements, with a headline or button text that looks like a continuation of your story.

So, what is your next step?

There is always so much we can do to improve our website designs. I encourage you to take it one step further. Go deeper behind the scenes.

You can never be wrong by simply taking care of your visitors and improving their experience. Consider their feelings and add more sense to your website content by designing a good story.

What is one simple design change you could make today that would improve your users’ experience on your website?

No Blog Traffic? Here’s a Simple Strategy to Seduce Readers and Win Clients

image of a coffee cup with an intricate design in the foam and a cookie next to it on the saucer

You sit down at your desk.

You start your computer.

You check Google Analytics and your email provider dashboard. A deep sigh escapes from your soul.

Why is your number of email subscribers still so low?

Why aren’t readers flocking to your blog?

And when will those business inquiries finally arrive?

We all know that blogging is hard work, but what should you do when your efforts don’t seem to pay off?

Should you cross your fingers and keep plugging away? Hope that your readership will snowball? Pray that business inquiries will soon flood your inbox?

You need a new blog strategy, not wishful thinking.

When your blog isn’t doing as well as you’d like, don’t simply step up your efforts. Don’t keep slaving away.

Instead, take a step back and review what you’ve done so far. Do you have the right building blocks in place to seduce readers and win clients?

If you want to create a simple blog plan that will help you win more readers, fans, and clients, answer the five critical questions below.

Sound good?

Let’s start with understanding your reader.

1. Who is your one fan?

You might be aiming to gain 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 blog readers.

But when you think about large numbers of readers, you turn people into a faceless crowd. And when you write for a faceless crowd, your writing becomes colorless, drab, and boring.

Do you think Stephen King focuses on millions of readers when writing his bestsellers?

In his book On Writing, King tells us he writes for one reader only — his wife. When he writes, he doesn’t wonder whether his millions of fans will enjoy his new book. He wonders, “What will Tabitha think about this section?”

When you write for one reader, your blog instantly becomes more engaging, personal, and persuasive. You’ll get more comments and shares, which will help you generate ideas for new blog posts.

Do you know your one fan?

Can you imagine picking up the phone, sharing a joke, and asking her view on your latest blog post?

Your ideal reader, your one fan, can be an imaginary person, your favorite customer, or a composite of various people you know.

To visualize your one fan, go beyond demographics. Understand her dreams and struggles. Empathize with her, and inspire her.

If you’d like a little help with creating your fan’s profile, download a free form here (no opt-in required).

2. Why would your fan read your blog?

Your blog might help you achieve a number of goals — generate more traffic to your website, raise your profile, boost your authority, gain more clients, etc.

But have you thought about what’s in it for your favorite fan?

Why would he read your blog?

Your blog reader isn’t interested in your company objectives or your personal aims. He doesn’t want to hear your promotional messages, your sales pitches, or even your company story.

He simply wants to know what’s in it for him. How can you take away his problems? How can you make him happier or more successful?

Here’s a quick exercise:

  1. Don’t think about your objectives.
  2. Quit worrying about business and sales.
  3. Finish this sentence: My favorite fan reads my blog because I help him …

A few examples:

  • As a marketing coach, you might want to help freelance writers find
    higher-paying clients.
  • As a web developer, you could help small business marketers create websites that convert more web visitors into leads.
  • As a premium social media app marketer, you could teach entrepreneurs how to network with influencers on Twitter.

Your blog purpose defines how you help your readers and keeps you focused on engaging and inspiring them.

That’s how your blog becomes a must-read resource in your niche.

3. Does each blog post help your fan?

Do you write for yourself or for your favorite fan?

To engage your readers and win business, you must write for your fans. You must write about the topics they crave.

Don’t wait until you have to write your next blog post to generate ideas. Spend 30 minutes this week brainstorming at least 30 ideas.

Here’s how you can generate 30 ideas in fewer than 30 minutes …

First, get away from your computer, and think about your favorite fan. Now, kickstart your brainstorming session with these questions, keeping in mind ways you can help:

  • What are her dreams?
  • What are her struggles?
  • Which difficult decisions does she have to make?
  • Which hot industry topics does she follow?
  • Which mistakes does she make?
  • Which buying decisions does she need to make?
  • Which resources could educate her?
  • What could experts teach her?
  • What questions does she have?

Stop creating content for the sake of creating content.

Instead, create a business blog for your readers.

Inquiries will flood your inbox once your authority grows.

4. Can your fans find you?

As a Copyblogger reader, you know about content marketing. You know you need to create quality content and promote it.

But this is where many of us get stuck.

Promoting content feels like a giant time-suck — an endless list of must-dos that you’re never able to complete.

How can you promote your content without going crazy? Let’s add some sanity to your content distribution plan:

How can you make time for guest blogging?
Guest blogging is the quickest way to boost your authority, gain valuable links, and increase email subscribers. If you struggle to find time for guest blogging, consider reducing your publishing schedule. Write a guest post one week and a post for your own blog the next week.

Which social media channels do you currently enjoy the most?
Be active on the platforms where your fans hang out and where you enjoy hanging out. When you enjoy yourself, you gain a wider audience and create more engagement. To start, choose two or three channels.

How well-established is your site?
Driving SEO traffic to a totally new site isn’t easy. If your blog is new, and you don’t know much about SEO yet, focus on other traffic-generating activities first. You can plan for future traffic with some smart SEO fundamentals, but don’t expect SEO traffic to be significant in the early stages.

Can new fans find your blog?
A blog without a promotional strategy is like a restaurant that’s not listed on a map. The establishment lacks diners because nobody knows how to get there. Guide readers to your blog with simple tactics, and don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. Do you build long-term relationships?

It’s easy to forget that people buy from people. The concept is a cliché, but it’s true.

Before people will hire you or buy your products, you need to build relationships:

To turn your readers into avid fans and loyal buyers, be a good friend. Don’t treat them like numbers.

Here’s what to do next

Ready to generate some serious business with your blog?

Follow these steps:

  1. Over the next five days, block 30 minutes for reviewing your blog.
  2. On day one, create a profile of your favorite fan.
  3. On day two, write down your blog purpose and discover why your fans come to your blog.
  4. On day three, think about your favorite fan and write down at least 30 blog topics that he’d love to read.
  5. On day four, review your blog promotion strategy. How can you reach more people in the time available to you? Which activities can you cut? How can you experiment?
  6. On day five, consider your email strategy. How can you build a closer relationship with the fans on your list?

The simple truth about your business blog

Of course you’d love to get more clicks, shares, and comments. But the truth is, these factors don’t matter.

Authentic engagement with the people who might want to buy from you is what matters.

Develop relationships with your readers. Put them first.

That’s how you win more business.

Your opportunity to seduce

Does your blog strategy keep readers engaged with your writing and serve their needs?

How does your content help readers know, like, and trust you?

Freelancing 101: How to Stay on Top of Trends by Carrie Cousins

One of the biggest challenges that comes with working from home is the loss of a day-to-day design trend network. Those informal chats about what’s happening in the design world and what’s new, emerging and different can be valuable time spent with coworkers. It can open your eyes to new things and ideas.

So how do you keep the fresh feeling to your design projects when you work alone? It can be easier than you think if you put forth just a little extra effort. Here are some tips for staying on top of trends when you don’t work in an office environment.

Use Social Media

freelancing

It may sound simple, but social media can be one of your best tools when used wisely. Make sure to follow or subscribe to designers, design firms or design blogs that you admire and trust. And then just read along.

But more than reading, you will also start to see trends in the visuals these social media gurus send out. What do their icons look like? Check out the look and feel of their timeline photos and visit sites often to stay on top of design updates or redesigns.

Interact with social media in the way it is intended to work as well by being social. Share some of your working projects online and ask for feedback (unless you are working on something confidential, that is). And take feedback openly. Don’t argue merits with Facebook or Twitter peers that are nice enough to give you an opinion. (Remember they are busy too.)

Read Design Blogs

You need to figure time into your freelancing schedule to read – a lot. Design blogs are one of your best options. (You might have a good idea of this already since you are reading Design Shack.)

Design blogs regularly showcase great work and many offer tutorials that can help you learn new skills and how to create some trendy new elements.

Here are 10 that should be in every designer’s bookmarks:

Have an Online Portfolio Go-To Site

freelancing

To stay current you must do two things with your portfolio:

  1. Update it regularly
  2. Look at plenty of other portfolios on the site where yours is hosted
  3. Bonus action: Participate in online portfolio reviews and critiques.

Sounds simple, huh? It is. They key is finding portfolio and sharing sites that work best for the type of work you are doing and mixing those with sites that are different from what you specialize in.

Trends are crossing platforms every day. Think about flat design. The recent incarnation of this trend started on websites and mobile applications. But it is everywhere now. You can find elements of flat design in print and package design. By looking at other mediums, you might become aware of potential trends earlier so you can figure out how to use them before they are no longer trendy.

Attend Local Meet-ups or Networking Events

It almost goes without saying, but make sure you are networking with other like-minded professionals. Make a habit to attend several design- or software-based meet-ups in your market each year.

Some of the biggest names in design — Adobe and Dribbble, for starters – have meet-up groups all over the world. (You may be to travel a little. The nearest Adobe InDesign group meets every other month about two hours from my house. But it is worth the time.) These groups give you a few hours of that office chitchat that you seldom have as a freelancer.

These meetings are also a good way to get first looks at new software or tools (sometimes before they are widely available).

Use and Learn New Software

One of my favorite features that comes with an adobe Creative Cloud subscription is that I always have the “latest and greatest” design tools in my hands. This makes it easy to open and send files without saving down and it keeps you in the habit of learning.

Every time a major update comes out, you are interested if you have the tools. Really interested. (I find myself reading about every new feature in every new update and trying to figure out just how it can make my life easier.)

Attend a Conference

freelancing

I know what you are thinking. Conferences can be pricey. This is true; so be choosy. Pick one super valuable conference for what you do and go. It will be worth it.

Make the most of the experience and attend as many sessions as possible, network with other design movers and shakers and participate in a panel or discussion if possible. Talk to vendors as well. Pick up some swag. See what’s new. All of these things can help you see what others are doing and what might be around the corner.

Travel for work is often considered a qualified business expense as well. So while you are paying out o f pocket up front, you might be able to recoup some of that expense at year-end.

Subscribe to Design Annuals and Magazines

freelancing

Design magazines and annuals are a good way to look at what’s trending and look back at the top design work of the last year. Magazines and annuals sometimes provide a level of detail and in-depth information that can’t be found elsewhere. They often do a great job of categorizing and displaying information in a way that you can refer to later.

Design magazines are just one more tool for keeping current. Many offer tutorials as well as articles. Ads in magazines are super-valuable when it comes to new tools and software.

And don’t forget to eye the design of the magazines themselves. You can tell a lot about publishing and print (and even digital) trends by examining how the magazine itself looks, what type of paper it’s printed on and the size of the publication. Make sure to look equally close at digital editions to see how they are different and what techniques are used.

Magazines can also be a great way to start learning about a design field that might be outside your comfort zone. If you primarily work in print, pick up something like “Computer Arts;” if you are a web designer, consider reading “Print.” You might even find the mediums are more similar than you thought.

Use ‘Trendy’ Tools

You don’t have to have the newest of everything, but you should be using modern design tools. (I am talking to you InDesign 2.0 users.) Current software (no more than 2 versions old) and devices can make a huge difference when it comes to trends. How will you design for an iPhone if you have never used one?

Pick a few of these tools and work with them. Borrow or rent if you must. But you should know how tools of the trade work and function. You need to understand how users will interact with what you are designing.

And when you have fun “toys,” you will be more apt to branch out and try new, fun things.

Conclusion

It doesn’t take a giant office or staff to be one of those designers who starts trends. It just takes a bit of effort. Get out, read, network, share and play around so that you can find what’s new in design.

Whether you are a designer, writer, developer or wear multiple hats, i will share tips, resources and ideas to help you make the most of your small business. Is there something in particular you want to know? How do you feel about this series? Let me know at carrie@designshack.net.

Image Sources: Jay Mantri, Jeffrey Zeldman and Kyle Van Horn.

How to Freelance Your Expertise

If you’re tired of being on the employee treadmill, now may be the best time to consider freelancing your hard-earned skills.

Are dreams of freelancing dancing through your head? If you’re nodding yes, now’s a great time to give it a whirl. As companies scale back on their expensive, benefit-heavy workforce, they’re increasingly turning to outside–freelance–help. If you’ve got expertise in the right areas, there’s a good chance you can parlay it into a freelance career by sharing your knowledge and skills with a variety of clients.

Let Freedom Ring
There’s no question about it; freelance doesn’t start with the word “free” for nothing. Freedom is a major perk of freelancing. As a full-time freelancer, you’ll work when you want. You can take vacations when you want, for as long as you want. Weekend getaways won’t have to be confined to weekends, and business suits are mostly a thing of the past. There’s no boss breathing down your neck, nagging you. And there are no irritating co-workers slacking off at the water cooler, driving you nuts.

But in exchange for all those freedoms comes risk and insecurity. As a freelancer, your next paycheck is never guaranteed. Anxiety about where the next job is coming from plagues many freelancers, no matter how seasoned. But insecurity comes with the turf, and dedicated freelancers learn to make peace with it.

The best way to ensure your freelancing future is to offer a service you know people want. Just because you’d like to do something doesn’t mean that there’s a readymade market for it.

“‘Follow your heart and do what you love’ is just a slogan. You need to get real,” says Kelly James-Enger, author of Six Figure Freelancing . “If you’re not offering a service people are willing to spend money on, you’re not going to be in business [for long].”

Search your local paper and the Internet to see who’s doing what you want to do, what they charge and who their clients are. Talk to everyone you know until you turn up freelancers doing what you hope to do. Then call them up and pick their brains about which segments of the market are growing and where most of their work comes from. This information is critical to helping you carve out a niche and fill a current opening in the market.

Think about this: Ten years ago, web designers made a pretty penny freelancing their services to corporations, but today the demand has lessened as all those laid-off dotcomers have created a glut in the market. On the other hand, small-business owners are more keen then ever to learn web design themselves, as are retiring baby boomers, so teaching web design may prove more lucrative than doing the actual design work right now.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job–Yet
Once you’ve decided what aspect of your field to freelance, take the time to establish yourself. “The biggest misconception people have is that they’re going to jump right into it and start making freemoney,” cautions Laurie Rozakis. “Not true. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come.”

Rosakis, who is a freelance writer and editor, and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Money in Freelancing , says it can take months–even years–to develop a reputation and client base. For that reason, many freelancers start by moonlighting while still holding on to their day jobs.

“Everyone thinks it’s going to happen overnight, but I don’t know a single freelancer who immediately started making a six-figure income,” maintains James-Enger.

A good rule of thumb is not to give up your day job until you have between six months and one year’s worth of savings, more if you’re the sole support for your household. “Don’t leave your job until you’re confident you can pay your mortgage and healthcare and put money into a retirement account,” James-Enger advises.

Of course, moonlighting while working for your current employer can be tricky-especially if you’re freelancing in the same field. Let’s say you’re an advertising copywriter who wants to start freelancing on the side. You’ll probably need to tell your employer, who may require you to sign a noncompete agreement in which you promise not to steal, or “borrow,” clients. If, on the other hand, you’re an advertising copywriter who wants to do freelance Japanese translations, your employer probably doesn’t even need to know what you’re doing after hours.

Generating Business
As in any business, your freelancing career is only as strong as the sales you make. Finding clients is the number-one challenge for any freelancer just starting out. It’s almost a catch-22: How do you attract clients when you’ve never had any? Here are some practical steps that will propel you out of the conundrum and into business:

  1. Develop a portfolio to demonstrate the scope of your skills. If that means working for no pay or low pay initially, do it. Samples of your work will be your best calling card.
  2. Tell everyone you know–colleagues, friends, family, neighbors–about your new freelance gig. Referrals will make up the bulk of your business initially.
  3. Join professional organizations–online or in the community–that serve your field. In addition to all the other benefits you’ll gain, you’ll also pick up insider tips of where to find work.
  4. Join local organizations, like the chamber of commerce or Rotary club. “Creative people often overlook organizations like these, thinking they’ll be filled with stiff bankers and businesspeople,” notes James-Enger. “And they may be–but that’s who’ll be hiring you to do your creative work.”
  5. Volunteer in the community doing something you love , and you’ll broaden your network of potential clients.
  6. Cold call. Yes, everyone hates cold calling, but the reason freelancers need to do this is because it works.

Another important point to remember is that freelancing doesn’t solely mean doing the thing you love. It also means knowing how to sell and market your services. When starting out, about 90 percent of your time will be spent on sales and marketing tasks. “Work won’t just stumble upon you,” says James-Enger. “You can be as talented as anything, but it won’t mean a thing if you can’t sell yourself.”

Rozakis agrees. “A lot of people go into freelancing thinking, ‘I’ve got the talent.’ What they need to realize is a lot of people have talent. What makes a successful freelance business is how strong your client list is.”

And building a client base requires that you plug away tirelessly without getting discouraged. Expect rejection. It comes with the territory–and often. But don’t let that stop you from trying again.

“Think of a salesperson at The Gap who gives you a pair of pants to try that don’t fit,” says James-Enger. “A good salesperson doesn’t sulk away, dejected. She hands you another pair and another pair until you buy something.”

Get Serious
When you see that you’re starting to make enough money that your freelancing is becoming a viable career, it’s time to start putting the business building blocks in place that will ensure that you–and your clients–take your business seriously. That means going beyond ordering hot-looking business cards.

No matter what your field, contracts are important. Many freelancers overlook developing their own, instead letting clients design contracts or foregoing them altogether. That’s a mistake–and it can be a costly one.

“Protect yourself,” stresses Rusty Fischer, who wrote Freedom To Freelance . He recommends checking out contracts used by other freelancers you know, so you can borrow the best of what they’ve got and incorporate those ideas into your own contract. Then run your contract by a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected. “It’s well worth a few hundred bucks to get it right,” he notes.

Establishing an accounting system is also imperative. Not only will it help you keep track of what you’re due, but it will simplify your life. Freelancers are on the IRS radar anyway, so good record keeping will give you peace of mind and make any possible future audit less painful.

“Get a great accountant or [take a] community college course and learn software programs like Quicken to keep your books,” Rozakis recommends. “You skip this aspect of the business, and you’ll be very sorry.”

Depending on your industry, having a website may be helpful in marketing your services. If you have visual examples of what you do, say landscape design or theatrical costuming, a website will act as a portfolio and introduce your work to prospective clients. (Websites are obviously less useful to freelancers without visual examples, say, home inspectors or medical billing administrators.)

Know Thy Self
One of the most important decision you’ll have to make before fully committing to running a freelance business is to determine if this type of lifestyle matches your personality. “Know thyself,” says Rozakis. “Really think this through before you make a commitment to a lifestyle and work style you just may not be suited for.”

And while you no longer have a boss, you do have to answer to someone–yourself. That’s why self-discipline is key to taking your freelancing gig from an interesting hobby to a viable business. “It really helps to be a Type A personality because you have to be able to motivate yourself and manage your time,” says James-Enger. “You can’t be a slacker and have a successful freelance career.”

Tempting as it may be to cut out mid-afternoon for a movie or a walk with the dog, most days those kinds of things just aren’t going to happen. “Not only will you normally work way more hours per week as a freelancer, but your schedule probably won’t wind up being as flexible as you think,” warns Fischer. “Most of your clients are working regular hours, from 9 to 5. Being available to them means that most of time, you’ll be working very regular hours.”

The freelance life is a solitary life. If you’re someone who feeds off the energy of other people, freelancing may prove too lonely a road to travel. Fortunately, for those who seek them out, there are solutions to the lack of daily social contact. Many freelancers fill their need to interact with other people by taking on-site freelance gigs, where they work–at least temporarily–among other people. Others turn to freelancer support groups where they meet once a month over a cup of coffee to swap tales of glory and woe. And others work on collaborative projects with other freelancers.

It takes time to grow a freelance business; it takes time to establish yourself; and it takes time to make money. All of this can be nerve-wracking and cause countless sleepless nights. But with talent, patience, tenacity and a touch of luck, freelancing can be among the most rewarding–and lucrative–ways to make money.

“Would I ever go back to working for the ‘man’?” laughs James-Enger. “No way. For all the struggles and unknowns, I wouldn’t give up freelancing and be somebody’s employee for anything.”

Freelancing Options

Think the freelance life might be for you? The good part is, if you do it, there’s a good chance you can freelance it. Here are some of the most frequently freelanced gigs around:

  • Accountant/bookkeeper
  • Appraiser
  • Cartographer
  • Chef
  • Computer programmer
  • Corporate event planner
  • Data entry/processor
  • Editor/copy editor
  • Engineer
  • Aesthetician
  • Film animator
  • Financial planner
  • Floral arranger
  • Fundraiser
  • Furniture restorer/repairer
  • Grant writer
  • Graphic designer
  • Home inspector
  • Interior designer
  • Landscape architect
  • Massage therapist
  • Medical administration (billing)
  • Package design
  • Party planner
  • Photographer
  • Political consultant
  • Private investigator
  • Professional organizer
  • Sales/marketing consultant
  • Seamstress
  • Set designer
  • Telemarketer
  • Translator/interpreter
  • Tutoring
  • Upholsterer
  • Web designer
  • Writer

This article was written by Andrea C. Poe. A freelance writer in Easton, Maryland, who specializes in business issues. For more juicy stuffs on freelancing, visit: http://www.entrepreneur.com

53 Freelancing Mistakes That Are Costing You Clients, Cash, and Credibility by SAMAR OWAIS

image of a foggy forest with a yellow caution sign pointing the way to safety

I don’t know about you, but when I started freelancing as a writer, I made a ton of mistakes.

And by “a ton,” I mean everything I did was pretty much a disaster.

Thankfully, you can fix mistakes. And contrary to popular belief, making mistakes is a good thing — provided you learn from them.

But if you’re thinking, “Great! As long as I learn from my mistakes, it’s all good,” I have to tell you something … and you won’t like it.

You may not even know you’re making a mistake.

And that part can hurt your freelance business.

You were too busy to notice (now you’re not)

There you are, happily working your behind off, when suddenly you lose a client.

They don’t give a reason so you shrug it off.

Then you lose another client just as abruptly, and then another client tells you they won’t be renewing your contract.

Um, what’s going on?

You quickly realize you haven’t received a referral from a client in a while. No one has heaped praises on you either. Hell, you’ve even been having trouble convincing prospective clients to hire you!

You were just too busy to notice. And now you’re not.

Even a rookie mistake can lose you clients, ruin your reputation, and cost you your livelihood if you don’t fix it in time.

It can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Want to avoid the destruction of your business? Use the freelancing mistakes listed below to discover if you’re making any of them.

(The mistakes have been organized under different aspects of a freelance business — mainly rates, clients, deadlines, business, communication, work, management, and marketing. Feel free to jump to the ones that interest you most.)

Rates

1. You’re not charging enough

charge

Freelance rates are subjective. What’s a low rate for me could be high for you.

But here’s the thing: if you’re not attracting the types of clients you want to work with, you’re probably not charging enough.

One quick way to find out whether you’re undercharging or not is to look at your calendar. Do you have room for new clients? Do you have room for your own life? Do all of the clients you have today treat you well? Can you meet all of your current deadlines comfortably? And are you paying your bills?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is No, you might not be not charging enough. If the answer to all of them is No, you’re definitely not charging enough.

2. You let your clients dictate your rates

Your clients don’t know how much work goes into doing what you do. And they don’t know how dictatelong it took you to become a capable writer who can create that work.

Frankly, they don’t care. All they care about is getting the job done as economically as possible.

It’s your job to charge a fair price that reflects the work you put into it.

If you don’t set your rates, clients will do it for you by telling you how much they can pay. And that’s never a number to get excited about.

Don’t ask for the client’s budget. Instead, quote an amount to your client. You can only do that when you’ve figured out your rates.

3. You haven’t figured out your lowest acceptable rate — or you don’t even know what that is

You know what’s worse than undercharging or letting clients set your rates? Not having your lowest acceptable rate figured out. This is the amount below which you absolutely will not work. Ever.

Having this figured out will help you make the right decisions when work is slow and you’re tempted to take on anything that comes along.

4. You think charging by the hour is smart

According to the logic behind charging per hour, you get billed for the time you spend working on a project. And that’s fine as long as the project is taking a set number of hours.hour

But what happens when you get so good at your work that you complete it in half the time?

Congratulations, you just slashed your earning in half. This isn’t up for debate. Charge per project. End of story.

5. You can’t remember the last time you raised your rates

When was the last time you raised your rates? Six months ago? Last year? Maybe two years ago?

If no one has questioned your rates in a while, it’s time to raise them.

Clients

6. You have trouble saying “No”

Many freelancers choke when trying to say no. We simply can’t do it. Not without feeling like theno world’s biggest heel.

Our inability to say no translates into accepting every request a client has — and that’s just bad business.

The next time your gut tells you to say no — just say it.

Yes, you’re saying no to money you need, but your time would be better spent finding interesting work that pays better rather than slogging for hours over a project you don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole.

7. You forget to screen clients

Every freelancer should have a screening process for clients — a few warning signs they look for when discussing a project with a prospective client.

Failing to screen clients before working with them leads to a lot of problems, and not being paid is the least of them.

Figure out your deal breakers and use them to screen clients. It’s the first step in working with the kind of clients you desire.

8. You don’t know how to handle (legitimately) unhappy clients

When I say unhappy, I don’t mean unrealistic clients. I mean the client who comes back to you and politely says you didn’t deliver what he was expecting.

Yes, you need to deal with your unrealistic clients too, because they’ll be the loudest voices when dissing your work and work ethic.

But you also need to learn how to handle criticism. Do everything in your power to satisfy an unhappy client. It might mean losing a pay check or working extra hours, but if the end result is a happy client and an intact reputation, the investment is worthwhile.

9. You think “the client is always right” is a good policy

Did you know that doing everything your client wants — especially things you know are wrong — hurts you more than it hurts them?

Sure, on the surface it looks like it’s none of your concern. After all, the client wants what he wants. Your job is to deliver.

But don’t forget that you’re their freelancer. When things go wrong (and they will), the blame will land squarely on your shoulders.

Take the time to explain why you think something won’t work. Offer an alternative solution instead. And when that solution works, accept the eternal gratitude of your client.

And maybe even raise your rates. Just saying …

10. You haven’t stayed in touch with your former clients

When was the last time you sent a former client an email? Just a short email to catch up and say hi stay— and casually mention you’re taking on more work these days.

You never know when a client might send work your way simply because you popped up on their radar at the right time.

11. You’re a little too available for your clients

This is one mistake you won’t realize you’re making until you answer a client call during dinner or find yourself on a conference call on Sunday morning.

Set some ground rules from the start. Make exceptions for emergencies of course, but you need to respect your own boundaries before you can expect your clients to do the same.

12. You remember the client … but not the person you worked with

Even if you’ve concluded your business with a client, don’t forget about the person who was your point of contact. Employees leave companies and move on to bigger and better things all the time.

Save their contact information and stay in touch. You never know when you might move to a new client with them.

13. You don’t educate your clients

Remember, clients don’t really understand what goes into a strong piece of writing.

All the client sees is a 1500-word blog post … not the strategy, research, drafting, editing, and fact-checking that go into it.

If you want the client to appreciate your work and give it due importance, educate them about it. The more they understand, especially about content strategy, the better clients they’ll be.

Deadlines

14. You’re not religious about deadlines

A deadline is not a tentative date. When you commit to a deadline, you must deliver on it.

Leave room for life to happen when setting a deadline. You never know when you’ll catch a cold, have your computer crash on you, or get your pitch for a guest post on Copyblogger accepted.deadline

This way, even if you’re running behind, you’ll have enough time to meet your deadline or at the very least, let your client know about the delay.

Bottom line: If you’re committing to a deadline, stick to it no matter what. Your clients will stick to you in return.

15. You don’t have a deadline calendar

Freelance work is based on deadlines. The more work or clients you have, the more deadlines you’ll have. If you’re not giving enough time between each deadline to get work done, you’ll eventually miss one.

Have a deadline schedule. Don’t just think you’ll be done in a week and pledge a date. For all you know, you could have two more deadlines the same week.

Set up a deadline calendar to determine which dates work best for you.

Business

16. You’ve never invested in your business

That sounds like such a successful freelancer problem right? Who has money to invest back in the business when you’re barely making ends meet?

But if you don’t invest in your business, you won’t have a business to invest in a couple of years down the road.

You don’t necessarily need to put thousands of dollars into getting the training you need. Start with a library of good copywriting books (both traditional and ebooks). And don’t forget to take advantage of high-quality free resources like the MyCopyblogger ebook library.

17. You’re a wimp about contracts

I get it. Contracts are scary. But they’re not as scary as not receiving a payment you were counting on to pay the bills.

You may think contracts need to be drawn up in technical legal language (or legalese as I like to call it) to be valid, but that’s not necessarily the case.

An email summarizing the terms and conditions you’ve worked out with a client is a form of a contract. It won’t be as airtight as something your attorney drafts for you, but it often doesn’t need to be. If you want to make it formal, put your agreement into a document, sign it, send it to your client, and ask her to sign it.

Still confused?

The following is an example you can use:

“This is a contract for [whatever service you’re providing] between John Smith (the awesome client) and Jane Doe (the equally awesome freelancer).

Below are the terms of this contract:”

Easy peasy.

18. You don’t have a payment schedule

This is such a rookie mistake — one I recently made because, hey, the amount was small and the client seemed legit. I’ve now put in the hours and sent in the work, but the payment is still stuck paybecause the work wasn’t what the client was expecting, and instead of sending me the details of what was wrong, he’s now AWOL.

Sound familiar?

Everyone needs a payment schedule. Make yours, “Half now, half on delivery (no matter what),” and you’ll never go wrong.

19. You don’t have working terms and conditions

Just as clients have terms and conditions, so do freelancers. Maybe you only accept payment through bank transfers, or don’t accept rush work. Whatever conditions you have, spell them out for your client so she knows what to expect when hiring you.

If you don’t, you’ll either run into problems with your client or find yourself making undesirable compromises.

Run a search for “freelance contract clauses” and you’ll find the most important clauses you need to work out.

20. You don’t learn from your mistakes

We all make mistakes. It’s what we do with them that sets us apart.

When something backfires, do everything you can to fix it and figure out what you can do to make it work next time.

21. You spend everything you earn

Ever notice how your expenses have a big number attached to them and your savings the most minuscule?

Sucks, huh?

But you know what sucks even more? Not having any savings on a rainy day.

Sooner or later we all have them. It could be because work’s slowed down, or maybe you had a big expense come up. Either way, if you don’t have a little something saved up for emergencies, you are screwed.

How to do it? Spend a little less, and/or raise your rates (see point 1 above).

22. You think your freelancing is a hobby

Freelancing isn’t something you do because you’re bored at home or because you have nothing better to do.

Freelancing is a business. The fact that you work your tail off day after day, night after night is proof of it.

You don’t burn the midnight oil for a hobby. Or if you do, you sleep till 3:00 p.m. the next day … not wake up early and get back to work again.

Do yourself a favor and stop treating your freelancing like a hobby. Freelancing is a business. Think it. Say it. Tell it to anyone who asks — maybe even those who don’t.

Keep at it until you start treating it like one.

23. You don’t show clients the value of your work

We often expect our clients to know the value of our work.

We tell them how much something will cost and how long it’ll take. Then we get the, “That sounds like a lot of money for such a small job” email. And you’re left scratching your head wondering how sending a sales newsletter to a 10k+ subscriber list is a small job.

The value isn’t in the number of words written. The value is in the opening rate of the email, in the click rate of the sales link, and in the actual sales made. Don’t take the value you provide for granted. If you do, your clients will too.

Always focus on the benefit your client will get from the writing, not the number of words you put on the screen.

24. You don’t pay attention to the business side of freelancing

Freelancing isn’t just about the work you do. It’s also about marketing, invoicing, prospecting, accounting, and so much more.

As much as it pains me to say it, all these things are as important as your work. Ignore it and you could find yourself missing meetings, deadlines, and even invoices.

25. You don’t have big plans for your business

As clichéd as these questions might sound …

  • Where do you see yourself six months from now?
  • What needs to change in your current situation for you to feel like your business is moving forward?

If you don’t have a ready answer, you’re not planning ahead.

Settling for the status quo is not planning.

Chalk out clear goals for yourself and make them as specific as you can. Make them time-sensitive and quantitative.

Something like: I should have a guest post published on Copyblogger in 2014 (ahem). Or, I need to find two new clients by the end of the quarter.

26. You don’t measure success financially

Making a “success” of your freelance business is a good goal to have. It’s also the world’s vaguest goal ever.

What is success to you? What must you achieve to declare your business a “success?” How much do you need to earn in order to do so?

The easiest way to measure success is financially. And so many freelancers fail at this.

Finding clients is not a good financial goal. Finding clients who pay you more than what you’re being paid now is.

What financial goals do you have for your business?

Communication

27. You think typos in your emails are okay

Nothing spells unprofessional and even irresponsible better than a poorly written email.

We all make mistakes, but if your communication is riddled with more than the very occasional typo, you’re sending the wrong message.

Take an extra 30 seconds and read your emails before hitting send … and save yourself some time and embarrassment.

Trust me: catching a missing “o” in word count is worth the hassle. ;-)

28. You think following up is pushy

Freelancers are notoriously bad at following up. It feels like such a pushy thing to do.

Find a happy medium.

Come up with a not-so-pushy follow-up email. A simple “Hey, I know you’re busy. Just wanted to follow up …” or “Hey I was wondering if you’ve come to a decision?” works pretty well.

29. You’re an over-sharer

If you’re mentioning your kids, unhealthy working habits, your penchant for trashy lit, etc. … you’re an over-sharer.

Keep it simple, direct, and friendly when communicating with clients. And yes, you can be all that without sharing your life’s story.

Take your clues from the client and always err on the side of discretion.

30. You think “negotiation” is a bad word

For some reason, negotiations have a negative connotation attached to them. In reality, they’re negotiateanything but.

Negotiations don’t always mean you lower your rates or give in to the clients’ demands. Whether it’s a question of deadlines, money, or the value provided, it’s all open for negotiation.

Use smart negotiation tactics to get what you want.

If the client says your rates are too high, tell them what work you can do within their budget. Offer to tailor a service package that gives value to them without compromising on your rates.

31. You let the client talk you into things you don’t want to do

If you’re letting the client talk you into doing something you don’t agree with, it’s time to get assertive.

Tell your client why you think their idea won’t work and what should be done instead. Let them know you’re uncomfortable doing something because it wastes time and money — not to mention it puts both of your reputations at stake.

32. You don’t tell clients you’ll pick their brains

Clients aren’t mind readers. To them, having some work done is simple. They pay you upfront and expect the finished product to be on their virtual desk on the deadline.

Some of them get antsy when you bug them with things like questions, or requests for additional material.

To avoid having an annoyed client on your hands, take the time to explain your work process to them. Let them know beforehand you might have more questions.

33. You keep your cards close to your chest

A thin line exists between being professional and acting too cool. Nobody likes to work with the freelancer who doesn’t give a straight answer.

Don’t try to second guess your client’s responses. Lay your cards on the table, have your say, and then wait for your client to respond.

From the client’s point of view, an uncommunicative freelancer is a headache she doesn’t need.

34. You think replying to emails quickly makes you look desperate

If you’re not replying to emails from prospective clients as soon as possible, you’re losing business.

Forget being better, or more affordable, or appearing busier than the competition. Be faster than them instead.

Work

35. You take on too much work

In a perfect world, you’d take on every interesting project that comes your way. Too bad it doesn’t work that way in the real world.overwork

Delegate or outsource your work, because if you don’t, the quality of your work will suffer — and your clients will be the first to notice.

And remember, it’s okay to tell clients that you’re just too busy to take their project right now. In fact, practically nothing will make you more desirable to them. And it’s a way to introduce the option of a retainer agreement, where you’ll carve out time for them on a regular basis. It’s good for clients and it’s good for your cash flow.

36. You over-promise

Over-promising happens when you have too much work.

Don’t promise results you can’t guarantee. Instead, always understate a little, because wowing a client is always better than giving your client an anti-climax.

37. You regularly fall victim to scope creep

This creepy bugger is the bane of countless freelancers.

They get introduced innocently enough: The clients ask if you could add something else into the project, and you — being the nice, accommodating freelancer that you are — agree. After all, it won’t take much time.

And so starts your slide down the slippery slope of an ever-expanding project scope.

The easiest way to ward off scope creep is to have a clause for it in your contract, reading: “should the scope of the project expand, so will the deadline and the rates.

This way, when the client comes to you with new suggestions, you get to say, “Sure, I’d be happy to do it. The new deadline will be ‘such and such’ and it’ll cost you an extra X bucks.”

38. You suffer from “freelancing god complex”

Freelancers usually work alone. We’re mostly loners who are also control freaks. We want to do everything ourselves. I call it our freelancing god complex.

Nobody can handle a growing business on their own — nobody human at least.

Do yourself a favor and outsource some tasks, whether they’re administrative tasks or your own work.

Make time for work you love doing by delegating work you don’t.

39. You don’t have any personal projects

Every time I hear someone say, “I started freelancing because I wanted to be my own boss,” I always say, “Great!” Then I ask, “What are you working on?”

The answer is almost always, “Oh y’know, client work.”

Somebody please enlighten me how this qualifies as working for yourself? You’ve traded one boss for a few others — also known as your clients.

Real freedom comes from working on your own projects — something that gives you a reason to get your client work done because you can’t wait to get back to it.

40. You’re a jack-of-all-trades but master of none

The specialist versus generalist debate has been going on for a long time among freelancers. You’ll find successful freelancers in both camps.

But if you haven’t mastered a skill — something you’re known as the expert on — making a name for yourself will be difficult.

For example, when someone wants a website designed, they no longer look for a WordPress designer. They look for a WordPress designer with experience in Genesis.

41. You’re too busy to learn new skills

Just because you’re great at what you do doesn’t mean you’ll stay that way unless you stay abreast of new developments in your niche.

So no matter how busy you are right now, take the time to learn new skills. Otherwise, you’ll soon be passed over for more inexperienced freelancers simply because they’re willing to learn.

Management

42. You think time management is for sissies

Freelancers and web workers are some of the biggest procrastinators online. And that’s great when you don’t have work. But when you have back-to-back deadlines, procrastination is death.

If you’re waiting for crunch time to get started with work, you’re in trouble.

Work out productivity strategies that accommodate your procrastinating, adrenaline-loving self.

Do your research and create outlines well before the day you actually sit down to work.

I won’t tell you to set a deadline two days before the actual one because it has never worked for me. I always remember I have two more days.

What has worked is setting a 30-minute timer on my phone. Or have an accountability partner — do anything that gets work done in time.

It’s your reputation, money, and credibility on the line after all.

43. You put all your eggs in one basket

Never depend on any one client for more than 25 percent of your income. (That’s my own number — some argue that it’s still too high).eggs

Sounds simple and sensible right?

Freelancers are often lured by the idea of getting a hefty paycheck without working for a bunch of people. But then one day the client emails saying, “Hey, this project is coming to an end (is being cancelled), and we won’t need your services anymore.

Cue: panic attack.

Suddenly you’re scrambling to fill this huge, gaping income void that’s suddenly opened up.

Moral of this mistake: diversify your income streams.

44. You don’t take breaks

All work and no play will make you a burnt-out freelancer.

Take short breaks throughout the year: a weekend here, a day off there, maybe even a half-day off in the middle of the week every couple of weeks.

Both your brain and business will thank you for it.

Marketing

45. You don’t ask for referrals

No one’s a bigger or better advocate of your work than a satisfied client. If you’re not asking them to refer you to more people, you’re losing out on some hot leads.

Imagine receiving an email reading, “Hey, we were looking for a freelancer and you come highly recommended,” as opposed to you sending an introductory email selling your skills and achievements to prospective clients.

46. You don’t ask for testimonials either

Testimonials are the best social currency out there when trying to convince clients you’re the person for the job.

If you’re not getting them from every happy client you have, you’re setting yourself up for needless questions and failure.

But when do you ask a client for a testimonial?

To be honest, there isn’t one perfect, clear cut answer. Go with your gut.

I personally like to ask for a testimonial immediately after a job well done. Clients don’t always come back, and if you don’t ask for one immediately, they’ll forget you and might not be as willing to give you one if you go to them a few months later.

47. You haven’t updated your portfolio since you made it

Nobody will want to work with you if they see your portfolio hasn’t been updated in the past two years.

Take an hour or two every couple of months to update your portfolio. Then, when you’re feeling proud of your work and what you’ve accomplished, send it to a few prospective clients.

48. You treat your portfolio as an afterthought

So many freelancers treat their portfolios as an afterthought. Oh hey, I just did some more work. Let’s put it in my portfolio.

Err … no. That’s not how portfolios work.

Portfolios need to have your best work in them. Not work you’re not embarrassed by, but work you’re damn proud of.

Don’t wait until you’ve done some work before you add it to your portfolio. Instead, find work that will look good on your portfolio. It should be work you want to do more of, work that attracts the kind of clients you want.

When you’ve made a name for yourself and are seen as an expert in your niche, you may not need a portfolio. But until then … well, actually, you need one even then.

49. You don’t think having a blog is important

You’re not doing your freelance business any favors by not having a blog. They are one of the best ways to attract clients.blog

Use your blog to do client case studies, show how you do your work, the process involved, how you get results, etc. Give prospective clients a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

And let’s face it: having a blog is good Google karma too.

50. Your website looks like it’s from 1996

Do you have a website that dates back to 1996? Or that looks like it does? Yeah, you won’t impress clients any time soon.

Getting a spiffy, up-to-date website is extremely easy. You can get one for under $100 for Heaven’s sake! What are you waiting for?

51. You only market when business is slow

If you’re waiting for business to slow down to market your business, you’ll run into problems soon.

Set up a list of 5-10 marketing activities and do any one of them each day. Focus on online marketing if any of the others seem too hard.

  • Write a post for your own blog
  • Email your personal network
  • Update your Facebook page or send out a tweet
  • Hold a giveaway
  • Run a contest
  • Email your old clients
  • Upsell or cross-sell to your current clients
  • Ask for recommendations
  • Email a prospective client
  • Write a guest post

That’s 10 marketing activities for you right there.

Create a pool of marketing activities, then pick one every day and do it. Don’t be afraid to hustle.

52. You don’t know why you’re using social media

I’m going to say something harsh here: If you’re not getting work queries through social media, you’re doing something wrong.

Take the time to build a relationship with your social media followers. Interact with your followers, engage with the ones you follow, answer questions, share relevant content, help out wherever you can.

Do anything to get noticed and be recognized as the person to go to in times of need.

53. You don’t run promotions

Promotions are one of those marketing tactics that help you attract more business and get over slow months.

Smart freelancers anticipate their slow times and plan for them.

Instead of simply accepting the slump you’re going through, do something about it.

Run a time-sensitive promotion, bundle your services, add more value to your current services — anything to make it more attractive to your clients.

The thing about making mistakes

I’d love to tell you how having this list of freelancing mistakes guarantees you will never make them, but you already know I can’t.

What I can tell you is that this list will help you catch your mistakes in time. It will save you from permanently damaging your business and reputation.

Go through it every couple of months. Your chances for success increase every time you fix a mistake you weren’t even aware you were making.

The truth is you can’t run a business without making mistakes. That’s how you learn. That’s also how you succeed.

So don’t be the freelancer who waits for his mistakes to hurt his business. Be the freelancer who finds and fixes them before that happens.

Take action today.

You owe it to yourself and the life you dream of living.

Share your thoughts

What do you think?

Which of these 53 mistakes have you caught yourself making in the past and corrected? What was the impact?

Are there any other mistakes you can add to the list?

Samar Owais is a freelance writer and blogger. She loves writing (kinda goes without saying), road trips, and helping writers succeed in their freelance writing businesses. Download her free report, 10 Unexpected Places to Find Freelance Writing Clients, to jump-start your freelance career today.

Freelancers: Increase Your Profits 75% in 8 Simple Steps

I’m sure that headline got your attention–after all, what freelancer wouldn’t like to increase their profits by 75%?

Here’s the deal: a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 75%.

Most freelancers take a one-and-done approach with their clients: They work with a client on whatever project the client brought to them, and then when that’s done, it’s done.

But … If you’re willing to invest a little time in setting up and maintaining client follow-up systems, then you can spend less time marketing yourself–and make more money.

Sounds like a good deal, right?

Let’s get started.

The Software You Need

To make your client follow-up work as easy as possible, you need to find the right customer relationship management software.

Many of the CRM systems out there are intended for enterprise-level companies with databases of hundreds, if not thousands, of customers. Those tools are overkill for the average freelancer–they’re loaded with features you don’t need, and quite often they’re expensive to boot.

Here are three good alternatives that are suitable for freelancers.

Contactually

Contactually

Price: Starts at $20 per month. The plan that includes the email templates, bulk messaging, article and content sharing, and automated workflows to help with follow up is $40 a month.

Standout features:

  • Integrates with multiple services, including MailChip, Gmail and Google Apps, your calendar, and social networks. It gives you a full view of what your clients are up to by pulling information from their social networks, and it also automatically updates with the last time you contacted someone. If, for some reason, you emailed a past client at the six week mark instead of the 90 day mark, Contactually will note that you already spoke to them once in the last 90 days and won’t remind you (thus preventing accidental double-follow-ups).
  • The built-in email templates are nice. They’re probably not worth upgrading to the $40 a month plan unless you’re going to use the other features, though.
  • iPhone and Android apps available

Capsule CRM

CapsuleCRM

Price: Free for up to two users and 250 contacts. After that, it’s $12 a month. You can also upgrade to get the integrations, which are probably worth paying for.

Standout features:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Apps available for both iPhone and Android
  • Integrates with Google Apps, as well as several invoicing and proposal tools

Insightly

Insightly

Price: Free version available, or $7 per user per month for the version that offers integrations

Standout features:

  • Very reasonable price given its features
  • Integrates with Google Apps, MailChimp, and others
  • Nice UI–similar to the Gmail interface, so if you’re familiar with that, you should be good
  • Android and iPhone apps available

All of three of these CRM tools give you some way to set up follow up reminders.

Honestly, which app you pick is less important than picking something and actually getting in the habit of using it, so take a quick look, decide what you’ll try first, and move on to …

The Services You Need

That is, the services you need to be able to offer previous clients. Your client follow-up system is going to be much more effective if you take the time to create a specific service package to offer to previous clients when you get in touch.

Here’s a few starter questions:

What do people need directly after working with you?

What are the next steps they need to take, and can you help them with that somehow with a follow-up service? For example, after you work with a client on redesigning their website, it would make sense to offer a “next step” service that includes rebranding their social profiles.

If you were going to offer a retainer or maintenance type of service, what would it look like?

Think: what do your clients need done on a regular basis? If you’re a designer, they might need images for blog posts, or infographics to go with their content marketing strategy. If you’re a developer, it could be security maintenance or updating plugins and themes.

What do your clients need 1-3 months after working with you?

This is sort of like the “next step” service, except less immediate. And depending on how much you keep in touch with former clients right now, you might have a hard time coming up with ideas–which is another benefit of keeping in touch. When you follow up with your clients, you’ll see what problems people have after working with you and can offer them paid solutions.

If nothing else, it’s easy to email previous clients and say “Now that it’s been a while since we’ve worked together, is there anything you’d love to have that’s within my skill set?”

The Emails You’ll Need

A good client follow up system will have three sets of emails:

  • An email to send immediately after wrapping up your original work with the client
  • An email for 1-3 months after your first project is done
  • A “keep in touch” email for touching base after that

Some example emails are below, though you’ll want to modify them for your voice (and follow up offerings, obviously!).

The project wrap-up email

Send your modified version of this email along with your usual “we’re done!” project notes and recap, or directly after you send those.

Hi (client name)!

I wanted to send you one final note to confirm that we’ve wrapped up the (project description). Thanks again for choosing to work together–I really enjoyed the process (include some notes here about your favorite part of working with them – their enthusiasm, their willingness to try a different solution, etc.).

Sometimes, people need a little follow-up assistance. If you find that you do need some additional work, I do have a few options for you:

(Insert details and description of your “next step” service, including cost.)

(Insert details and description of your retainer service, including cost.)

Let me know if you’re interested in either of these and we’ll get you set up, if so. If not, no worries–it was a pleasure working with you and I look forward to keeping in touch in the future!

(your name)

The follow-up services email

This email is for one to three months after you finish working together, depending on what your follow up services are.

Hi (client name),

I just wanted to check in with you after our previous work together. I loved working with you on (insert details about work together) last year/month/(insert appropriate timeframe). How are things going? (Ask about what’s going on in their life here–this is where your CRM tool comes in handy! Alternately, if you have an industry resource or useful article, include it here.)

I also wanted to let you know that I have some upcoming client availability for next (month, quarter, etc.). For previous clients, I offer (talk about your service offerings here–whether it’s a la carte design elements or a specific follow up service or what-have-you). If you need any help in that department, I’d love to have you–just let me know or give me a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Either way, thank you again for choosing to work with me and have a wonderful day,

(your name)

The “keep in touch” email

This is pretty malleable–the idea is that you just want to stay a part of people’s lives, even if you don’t continue working together. If nothing else, people always remember those who made them feel special, and that means that they’re that much more likely to remember you and refer you to others. You’ll probably want to check in about once every three months or so (starting after you send the second email. So three months down the line from the follow-up services email, send this one:

Hi (client name)!

How are you doing? I saw that (you moved, had a baby, got a new dog, etc.)–how’s that going? (It’s going to depend on what’s going on in their life but this is a good place to say you hope that’s going well, or that you sympathize because you just moved a few months ago, etc.)

(The next paragraph is optional depending on when you last corresponded with them and what you talked about–if they’re regularly sending you referrals, you don’t want to remind them of referrals, for example. And it should be modified so that it’s not exactly the same as previous correspondence, because you don’t want to sound robotic!)

I also wanted to give you a heads up that I have some upcoming client availability for next (month, quarter, etc.). As you probably remember, I specialize in (insert some details about what kind of work/clients you’re looking for), and if you know anyone who could use help in that department, I’d love it if you sent them my way. (If you want to offer any kind of referral program–like, people who send you referrals get 5% of the deposit, or whatever–this is the place to mention that.) And of course, if you yourself need any further assistance in that department, I’d love to help you–just let me know or give me a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Either way, thanks again for being a great client, and let me know if I can do anything to help you outside of work–whether that’s (moving resources or pet training resources or something that ties in with what’s going on with their life) or anything else! 🙂

Have a great day,

(your name)

8 steps to increase your profits

This checklist ties it all together. It’s your homework.

  1. Create a list of previous clients. Include when you worked together, what you worked on, and what’s gone on in their life since then (career change? business relaunch? moved? new baby?).
  2. Choose one of the apps listed above and sign up for it.
  3. Sync your chosen tool with your email and social media accounts.
  4. Input past clients and notes on what you worked on together.
  5. Input current clients and notes on your projects with them.
  6. Set up your chosen app so that it reminds you to follow up with previous clients.
  7. Create your email templates, based on the ones above.
  8. Send appropriate emails to previous clients, depending on how long ago you worked together.

Revisit your system regularly to keep it running smoothly

After you do this setup work, you just need to schedule a day every other week or once a month to review your client follow-up system and make sure it’s working well.

Set a reminder on your calendar or create a task in your task management system to make sure you don’t forget, and voila, you’re on your way to a much more profitable freelancing practice!

Mastering the art of the follow-up: tips for freelance designers

Have you ever pitched to a potential client or perhaps responded to a request for proposal and then never heard back from anyone on the project? If you don’t hear back from a potential client, it might have been your fault, not theirs.

Mastering the art of the follow-up is a difficult thing. But with the tips you’ll find below, you’ll be landing new jobs and finding new clients left and right.

Assuming you did great in the interview, submitted a rocking request for proposal, or gave an awesome pitch, here are some ways you can master the art of the follow-up.

The first follow-up email

The first follow up email should happen as soon as possible right after meeting with your potential client.

Briefly review key points discussed in your meeting to show you were paying attention. Then be sure to attach any information they may have requested from you in the meeting.

Lastly, express your excitement for the project and thank them for considering you. Make a promise about being the best candidate and close.

Make the email only as long as it needs to be. A super-long email can make you seem needy. Also be sure to avoid too much flattery. Don’t be fake. Be sincere and honest when expressing interest in working with them.

The follow-up phone call

If you still haven’t heard from your potential client within a few days, consider giving them a phone call. Don’t call over and over again if they don’t answer. Simply leave one brief message expressing your interest in connecting with them.

Making the first phone call shows initiative and helps them reconnect with you as a person instead of words in an email. Sometimes a phone call can be just the small motivation a potential client needs to wrap up the process and hire you.

Another follow-up email

If, after a week or so, your potential client still hasn’t responded to your email or phone call, feel free to send them another email. This one should be extremely short with a message explaining your interest in hearing from them and offering any help they may need in making a decision.

Sometimes potential clients just need help moving the process forward, sometimes they have more questions about your ability to fulfill their design needs, and the list goes on.

This is the time to resolve any doubt they may have been dealing with for the last week or so. Make them confident you can do a good job for them.

One last phone call

After a week and a half to two weeks, make one last phone call. When I say last, I don’t necessarily mean you’re giving up on them.

You’re simply leaving the ball in their court.

For those of you not familiar with sports euphemisms, you’re leaving it up to them to call or contact you. It’s possible they will contact you, but you have more important things to do for your design business than chase down clients who are uninterested.

To use another euphemism: There are plenty of fish in the sea.

If you feel so inclined, put them on a list of potential clients, file it away, and when you experience times of client famine, bring out the list and make a few more calls.

What follow-up secrets do you have?

I know you all have some great tips on making the follow-up process as successful as possible. What tips can you share with the rest of us?

Top50 Website Templates: Joomla vs.WordPress Mouth-Watering Battle

Only today and only for you Top50 Website Templates are going to determine who is who! Joomla vs. WordPress battle is about to begin! Please make your self comfortable and be ready to enjoy the show!

Today you’re welcome to participate in an extraordinary battle. It is far from the battle of the century, but you can sure bet on it! In the left corner of the ring you can see multiple CMS champion – WordPress! In the right corner of the ring meet beloved and well-recognized Joomla CMS! It is not the first time the competitors meet to challenge each other and definitely not the last one. But this is not the blood feud as it may seem. No! It is rather a friendly scuffle to keep each other fit. And really, there’s no reason for feud. Both CMS gained their wide popularity due to their extremely appealing features that make them easy to install and customize, to say nothing about being user-friendly and responsible. So they gain from the both sides: site manager and the final user.

But to make this battle more spectacular we added some special effects. No, there are no laser swords and blue aliens. We have chosen a topic for the battle that seems to be the most appetizing. In the direct meaning of this word. Food and everything connected to it: restaurants, cafes, breweries, bakeries. These mouth-watering templates won’t leave you indifferent. But don’t forget what we are here for! To compare the two CMS. So before dropping with saliva and running towards the kitchen for a sandwich or two look through the templates till the end and put your vote to the one of the balance pans.

So here are top50 Website Templates chosen for the battle. Best of the best fighters! Meet them with your loud applause! 50 mouth-watering themes are ready for the battle!

Juicy Responsive Joomla Template

Food & Drink Responsive Joomla Template

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Cooking Courses WordPress Theme

Cooking WordPress Theme

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Sweet Shop Responsive Joomla Template

Sweet Shop Responsive Joomla Template

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Tasty Recipes WordPress Theme

Cooking Recipes Online WordPress Theme

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Pastry Shop Joomla Template

Sweet Shop Joomla Template

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Tasty Life Responsive WordPress Theme

Cooking Responsive WordPress Theme

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Grandma’s Pies Responsive Joomla Template

Cooking Responsive Joomla Template

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Gourmet WordPress Theme

Delicious Cafe WordPress Theme

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Confectionery Responsive Joomla Template

Cafe Responsive Joomla Template

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Red Seafood Restaurant WordPress Theme

Red Seafood Restaurant WordPress Theme

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Bakery Joomla Template

Bakery Joomla Template

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Flat Mexican Restaurant WordPress Theme

Flat Mexican Restaurant WordPress Theme

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Candy World Responsive Joomla Template

Sweet Shop Responsive Joomla Template

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Muffins Responsive WordPress Theme

Bakery Responsive WordPress Theme

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Bread Joomla Template

Bakery Joomla Template

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Bakery for Saving Tradition WordPress Theme

Bakery for Saving Tradition WordPress Theme

Details |Demo

Master Chef Responsive Joomla Template

Cooking Responsive Joomla Template

Details |Demo

Brewery Responsive WordPress Theme

Brewery Responsive WordPress Theme

Details |Demo

Coffee Shop Joomla Template

Coffee Shop Joomla Template

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Honey Store Responsive WordPress Theme

Honey Store Responsive WordPress Theme

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Quality Beer Responsive Joomla Template

Brewery Responsive Joomla Template

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Light Wine WordPress Theme

Light Wine WordPress Theme

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Healthy Food Responsive Joomla Template

Food & Drink Responsive Joomla Template

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Small Cafe WordPress Theme

Black Cafe WordPress Theme

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Crazy Drinks Responsive Joomla Template

Food & Drink Responsive Joomla Template

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Pasta WordPress Theme

Food & Drink WordPress Theme

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Italian Restaurant Responsive Joomla Template

Italian Restaurant Responsive Joomla Template

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Cupcakes WordPress Theme

Cute Sweet Shop WordPress Theme

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Exquisite Cooking Joomla Template

Cooking Recipes Joomla Template

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Delicious Bakery WordPress Theme

Delicious Bakery WordPress Theme

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Healthy Beverages Responsive Joomla Template

Food & Drink Responsive Joomla Template

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Light Space Cafe and Restaurant WordPress Theme

Light Space Cafe and Restaurant WordPress Theme

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Fragrant Bread Joomla Template

Bakery Joomla Template

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Clean Cooking WordPress Theme

Clean Cooking WordPress Theme

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Juice Business Joomla Template

Juice Business Joomla Template

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Buns and Cakes WordPress Theme

Bakery WordPress Theme

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Smoothie and Juice Responsive Joomla Template

Food & Drink Responsive Joomla Template

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Beige Cooking WordPress Theme

Beige Cooking WordPress Theme

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Large Sliding Background Brewer Joomla Template

Large Sliding Background Brewer Joomla Template

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Tasty Blog WordPress Theme

Cooking WordPress Theme

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Pasta Mania Responsive Joomla Template

Food Store Responsive Joomla Template

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All about Cakes WordPress Theme

Cooking WordPress Theme

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Best Bakery Responsive Joomla Template

Bakery Responsive Joomla Template

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Sweet Paradise WordPress Theme

Bakery WordPress Theme

Details |Demo

Citrus Store Joomla Template

Food Store Joomla Template

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Cherry Cafe and Restaurant WordPress Theme

Cherry Cafe and Restaurant WordPress Theme

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Yummy Restaurant Joomla Template

Delicious Cafe and Restaurant Joomla Template

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Sweet Bakery WordPress Theme

Bakery WordPress Theme

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Food Broker Joomla Template

Food Store Joomla Template

Details |Demo

Tea Shop WordPress Theme

Skeuomorphism Tea Shop WordPress Theme

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Tasty Way Joomla Template

Cooking Joomla Template

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Cozy Cafe Responsive Joomla Template

Cafe Responsive Joomla Template

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Tea Cafe Responsive Joomla Template

Tea Shop Responsive Joomla Template

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Cafeteria Joomla Template

Cafeteria Joomla Template

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Coffee Time Joomla Template

Coffee Shop Joomla Template

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5 Tips For Forging A Lasting Creative Partnership

Might some of the same rules that make for a good marriage make for a great creative partnership? Short answer: yes.

More than half of American marriages end in divorce. We can only imagine that the stats are similar for new businesses, where partners often spend more time together than with their spouses.

What, then, can you do to make sure your partnership odds are better than those forged at the altar?

Ken Carbone and Leslie Smolan of the design firm CarboneSmolan, one of the few unmarried male-female creative teams in the industry, have slogged through all the ups and downs of a 35-year partnership–the good years and the lean ones, clients won and lost, big fights, long nights, and tectonic changes in their industry–and emerged still happily finishing each others’ sentences.

They recently celebrated more than three decades in the business together with a new book, “Dialog,” that chronicles that felicitous run, during which they’ve created award-winning work for clients ranging from Morgan Stanley to the Louvre, Dansk to the San Francisco Airport.

During that time, they’ve hammered out a handful of principles for keeping your creative partnership alive and healthy. No surprise that these rules would make as much sense at home as they do in the office.

1. Make Creative Friction Work.

“In the early years, there were loud disagreements,” Smolan confesses. “We’re both passionate and strong-willed, and happy to stand up for ideas we think are right.”

Eventually, she says, the two realized that their debate, while occasionally disconcerting, inevitably led to a better result. “We had an epiphany: We generally had the same goal, just two different paths for getting there.”

While they refuse to compromise just to keep the peace, they generally agree that whoever cares the most generally wins. “When you trust the other person aesthetically, you let go,” saysSmolan.Still, they have strict rules about keeping conflict in its rightful place. “Creative friction in front of a client is bad,” Carbone says. “It gives them an opening. And we try not to fight in front of employees. It’s like, ‘Whoa, there go Mom and Dad fighting again!’” Plus, like any long-standing couple they have one inviolable rule: Don’t go to sleep mad.

2. Tag Team Your Business.

“We recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Carbone says. “In the beginning there was much more territorial feuding–over finances, office space, etc.–but now I know what I don’t know, and what Leslie does better than I do.”

The result, the two say, is a neat division of labor. Smolan handles the finances, Carbone the firm’s marketing. Smolan likes to push clients toward the far reaches of their horizon for innovation; Carbone makes sure that what they propose is within the CEO’s comfort zone.

They understand each other well enough to know which clients will respond best to which partner. “By the time we hit the ground in the elevator, we know who will be the primary lead on the business,” Smolan says.

3. Don’t Keep Score.

“We’re champions of the ‘We’” Carbone says. “I never say, ‘I did this logo.’ It’s part of the fabric of the partnership.”

This is not to say that the division of labor is always 50/50. But nobody’s calculating who brought in the most business, or who’s working harder.
“Sometimes Leslie’s side of the business is much more profitable than mine,” Carbone says. “She never says, ‘What did you do this year?’”

“We all have ups and downs,” Smolan says. “And we have different ways of contributing. It’s never about the money.”

4. Be Your Partner’s Biggest Fan.

The biggest trick of a good partnership, both say, is to pick somebody of enormous talent and stick with him or her.

“To this day, I think Ken is the best designer I know,” Smolan says. “Ken’s a great draftsman, so the first thing I do when we have visitors is bring them to Ken’s office to show off his drawing and journals. Nothing makes me happier than to talk about this other person as my other half.”

For his part, Carbone makes sure that clients don’t ignore the woman in the room. “If someone is paying too much attention to me, and the project is better for Leslie, I make sure she’s the shining star.”

Happily, their spouses also get along. “Somehow, the four of us are like The Honeymooners,” Smolan says. “There’s never an edge of jealousy or envy.”

5. Stay Off Balance.

After 35 years of success, you’d think you could finally coast a little. Bad idea, both in a partnership and in a marriage, the two say.

Framed above a doorway in their office is a sign that Carbone found in a fortune cookie: “The road to success is always under construction.” It is, they say, their firm’s mantra. “If you stay the same, you’ll die,” Carbone says. “Granted it’s exhausting, but staying off balance builds different muscles.”

The two have recently added a younger partner, Paul Pierson, who brings the firm a fresher perspective on technology and speed. “Right now, a good 70-75% of our business is Web-focused,” Carbone says. “It wasn’t that way as recently as 18 months ago. If we don’t recognize this business five years from now, it will be our greatest success,” he says. “With a mature business, staying off balance is critical.”

“Either that, or we’re just masochistic, “ Smolan chimes in.

[Images: Speech Bubbles, Notes, and Board via Shutterstock]

For more juicy design stuffs, visit http://www.fastcodesign.com